kickin' it

Kickin' It: June 2018 Wrap Up

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Kickin’ It is a feature at The Bucket List where I round-up the whole month in one post, bringing you reviews you may have missed, other awesome bookish things, and even what I’m currently obsessed with in other media besides books. June was the worst reading month I've had all year but one of the best months aside from that. I didn't get much reading done this month, totaling the books read to only four. Yet, I'm having a blast as a student at the Columbia Publishing Course in New York City this summer. I've been learning so many new things and meeting so many cool people!

Here's my June recap:

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater (4 stars): Wow, this sequel. I still don't know what to write about it. I think I like The Raven Boys better but I enjoyed this one immensely!

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (4 stars): I'm slowly working through reading more classics this year. I read A Little Princess a month or two ago from this very same author and really liked it. So, I decided to give The Secret Garden a try and it was fantastic! My favorite of Burnett yet!

The Impossibility of Us by Katy Upperman (4 stars): Love, love, love this! Half in verse and half in prose. This wonderfully-told romance will leave you speechless!

Dawn of Legends by Eleanor Herman (4 stars): The final installment of the Blood of Gods and Royals series and let me tell you, this series is something you don't want to miss! It is a reimagining of Alexander the Great filled with fantastical elements and a large cast of great characters!

Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi: This one sounds so adorable. Parts told in text messages, an introverted romance blossoms. And this cover-- I droll over it every time I step into a bookstore!

Honor Bound by Rachel Caine and Ann Aguirre: I just discovered this one a few days ago. It's the sequel to one of my favorites of this year, Honor Among Thieves! Can't wait to read what happens next!

Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss by Kasie West: Another Kasie West to add to the list. She's an auto-buy author so I don't even know what this one is about but it's a fluffy romance from Kasie West so it's going to be as adorable as I'm expecting!

When Life Gives You Demons by Jennifer Honeybourn (7/17/18): This protagonist has been training to be an exorcist all her life. Like, what? I hope this one turns out to be as hilarious as it sounds!

Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart (7/31/18): I don't know much about this one except the tagline drew me in: In a world where women have no rights, sisters Serina and Nomi Tessaro face two very different fates: one in the palace, the other in prison. This is most definitely something I must read!

Campfire by Shawn Sarles (7/17/18): A camping trip turned nightmare sounds like something I will read during October.

I realized, just now, that I haven't done much in discovering media this month. It's been rather busy with the course but I am having the time of my life. Despite my lack of movie watching, I was able to find time to rent three movies before my course started: Winchester, Peter Rabbit, and Annihilation.

Winchester was disappointing, I expected much more scares and a darker plot but the slow build up did nothing for me. Peter Rabbit was cute without much substance. Annihilation was the best of the three but certainly not my favorite ever. It was an okay film adaptation but some parts you can easily tell were taken from the book because they made no sense to be in the movie without any context. Overall, an okay month-- no great movies but hopefully, with summer blockbusters, I'll be saying the opposite next month!

 Annihilation Movie GIF

How was your June? What books did you read? Did you watch any shows/movies?

Top Ten Tuesday

10 Anticipated Book Releases with Red, White, and Blue Covers

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

It's not quite July 4th yet (one more day!) but we can celebrate a day early, right? While I'm currently in hours-long lectures, at least The Bucket List can get the party started before those fireworks start tomorrow! Happy 4th of July!

light new years GIF by Faith Holland

While the Top Ten Tuesday prompt this week is to find red, white, and blue covers, I decided to take that one step up and bring you a list of 10 of my most anticipated book releases that also happen to have either red, white, or blue covers! These books sound so good! Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is: 10 Anticipated Releases with Red, White, and Blue Covers:

Odd One Out by Nic Stone (10/9/18): From the author who brought you Dear Martin, which I still haven't read, comes an interesting story of friendship, romance, and self-discovery. 

People Kill People by Ellen Hopkins (9/4/18): I'm not crazy about books in verse but this book is so timely and important that I definitely want to give it a go! Six people's lives connect in a town wrought with political and personal tensions.

Nightingale by Amy Lukavics (10/1/18): A horror of epic proportions; this one sounds like it will certainly give me nightmares! All the protagonist wants is a little bit of freedom which certainly marks her as different in 1951. Her parents are so worried that they commit her to an asylum where her nightmares come to life. 

Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tucholke (10/2/18): A YA fantasy standalone? Sign me up! A group of hired killers work together to get each job done. However, Frey, a killer, dreams for something bigger-- glory and fame. When a monster is ravaging towns nearby, she rounds up the group in search of accomplishing her dream of glory.

Sadie by Courtney Summers (9/4/18): After the protagonist's sister is found dead and a police investigation that goes nowhere, Sadie decides to take matters into her own hands and bring her sister's killer to justice. *gulp* I've never read a book by Summers before but this sounds like something I won't want to miss!

Honor Bound by Rachel Caine and Ann Aguirre (2/19/19): Science fiction has always been hit or miss with me but the first book in this series, Honor Among Thieves really hit it off with me! I'm hoping for amazing things from this one! And with a tagline: Fight like outlaws. Die like heroes. I most definitely will not be disappointed!

Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare (12/4/18): We still have quite a ways to go until this releases. Yet, since The Dark Artifices floors readers, I'm waiting until I have all of them in my hands to binge-read the whole series!

That's Not What Happened by Kody Keplinger (8/28/18): When her best friend is killed in a mass school shooting, she lets people think what they want to think. But they've all got it wrong and she finally wants to set the story straight. I'm always on the lookout to what Keplinger will come up with next and this sounds like a magnificent, powerful read!

Unclaimed Baggage by Jen Doll (9/18/18): Three lives intertwine when they all take a job at a store that sells unclaimed and forgotten luggage from airports. If we were ranking summer jobs, this one sounds like a pretty cool one!

A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti (9/18/18): I've tried to read books from Caletti before and I can never really get into them but I'm going to try again with this one. The main character becomes a reluctant activist when she decides to run marathons across America in an attempt to run from the trauma of her past.

What books are you eagerly anticipating?

book tag

The Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag (2018)

Thursday, June 21, 2018

I did this tag last year (The Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag 2017) and had such fun talking about all the books I've read so far that I wanted to make sure to do it again. I saw this post most recently over at Paperfury but I'm not sure who the original creator of this tag is. So far, I've read 53 books which is a little less than last year but I'm still hoping to beat my total of 102 so we shall see. Let's chat about some of my favorites this year:

The best book you've read so far in 2018:

Reign the Earth by A.C. Gaughen: Why aren't more people talking about this one? It's an absolutely fantastic fantasy with an empowering female lead! Read my review where I gush about how amazing it is!

Your favorite sequel of the year:

Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs: I went to this thinking it was going to be the finale of the series. However, not long after I finished the book, the publisher announced the fourth book will be releasing soon. I couldn't have been more happier. The action was great in this one and I was so satisfied with the end. Still, I'm looking forward to seeing how Riggs follows up the original trilogy and what other adventures these characters can go on.

A new release that you haven't read but really want to:

Totally unintentional in that I chose all contemporaries for this. I suppose with summer just around the corner, I'm in need of some fluff in my life. I've been hearing amazing things about From Twinkle, With Love by Sandhya Menon and after the adorable When Dimple Met Rishi, I can't wait to read everything Menon writes! I haven't read many books by Morgan Matson but Save the Date sounds like the perfect summer read. Plus, that cover is so much fun! Ship It by Britta Lundin isn't a book I've heard much about but it sounds like something I would enjoy.

Most anticipated release for the second half of the year:

How could I pick just one? Mirage by Somaiya Daud (8/28/18) sounds like a crazy fantasy! A girl is kidnapped and taken to the palace because she looks exactly like the princess - and then she starts falling for the princess' fiance. Yes, please. Black Wings Beating by Alex London (9/25/18) sounds like a great read too! Twins journey to find the one thing they believe will stop the war. And last but not least, The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee (10/2/18) is coming out and I just can't! This is going to be so amazing!

Your biggest disappointment:

It's unfortunate that there is more than one for this section. I had the highest of expectations going into Heartless by Marissa Meyer and they just weren't met. I expected a different sort of retelling and didn't get it. Same with Brooding YA Hero by Carrie DiRisio. I love the Twitter account so I picked this up, not really knowing what to expect. Part story, part writing guide was what readers got and it just wasn't for me. Allegiant by Veronica Roth, ugh. I don't even think it needs an explanation. 

Biggest surprise of the year:

Honor Among Thieves by Rachel Caine and Ann Aguirre: I don't like science fiction so I was pretty sure I wouldn't like this. Especially since from what I've read by Aguirre, I never could quite warm up to the writing. So it was such a lovely surprise when I truly loved this book!

Favorite new-to-you or debut author:

V.E. Schwab (author of A Darker Shade of Magic): So much love! The writing is absolutely phenomenal and I can't wait to read more from her.

Your fictional crush:

Rishi from When Dimple Met Rishi: Rishi, the romantic! He is such a sweetheart, so kind and amazing!

Kell and Rhy from A Darker Shade of Magic: I couldn't choose between the two! They are both amazing in their own ways. Kell is so reserved and cool. Whereas Rhy is always trying to get your attention.

Mati from The Impossibility of Us: These boys all have a special place in my heart, including Mati who is absolutely lovely. He's a gorgeous writer and such a kind person. Plus, he's undeniably handsome.

New favorite character:

Hence from Catherine: I wouldn't call him my favorite character. However, I am so intrigued by his character. I want to know more about him and his actions. Catherine is a retelling of Wuthering Heights and Hence is the Heathcliff character of the story. There are just so many questions to ask pertaining to him.

Branwen from Sweet Black Waves: From the inspiration of a tale of Tristan and Isolde comes Sweet Black Waves, a story that takes the original tale and turns it upside down. Instead of Isolde getting the man, it's Branwen, her lady in waiting. Branwen is strong but still trying to figure things out. Her unsure-ness is really what makes her stand out among other protagonists.

Mariko from Flame in the Mist: Mariko is the best - as much as Flame in the Mist is marketed as a retelling of Mulan, I really didn't see it. Despite Mariko not being a version of Mulan, she's still an awesome character who knows how to kick butt. She's incredibly intelligent and her witty and clever remarks are what make her a character I would love to be friends with.

A book that made you cry:

After You by Jojo Moyes: I never really made the decision to read the sequel to Me Before You. I thought it was fine as a standalone. It wasn't until someone gifted me the sequel that I finally gave in. After You was not what I was expecting. From the way Me Before You ended, I expected to see an epic Europe adventure. Instead, what we get is a rough journey leaving without him. It was hard and realistic and just getting over my expectations made me so sad.

A book that made you happy:

So many books have made me happy this year so far! Things We Know By Heart by Jessi Kirby not only reminded me of a kdrama I had once binge-watched but it also made my heart so full. It was so adorable and meaningful! A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas is a novella to A Court of the Thorns and Roses series. It was so great seeing all my favorite characters again. And Geekerella by Ashley Poston was an answer my little fandom heart didn't know I had asked for. It was cute and heartwarming!

Favorite book-to-movie adaptation:

So I can't really say much about the book vs. movie since I haven't read the book yet. However, Love, Simon was such an amazing movie! 

The most beautiful book you bought/received this year:

The Book Jumper by Mechthild Glaser | Tales of the Peculiar by Ransom Riggs | All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill

What are some books you need to read by the end of the year?

I have so many books I NEED to read by the end of the year. And, if we are being realistic, I won't be able to get to half of them. However, these three are the books that are definitely on my radar to read soon. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan is becoming a movie, which releases in August. I've refrained from watching the trailer but a lot of people have said it looks super cute. Markus Zusak has finally graced us with a new book, Bridge of Clay, that you can bet I will be devouring when it releases in October. His last book was The Book Thief so my expectations are very high for this one. And I've been meaning to get to an Adam Silvera book (maybe this year, I'll read They Both Die at the End) for years now. By the end of the year, I am making it my goal that I finish at least one book by Silvera.

I tag all of you! Let's get talking about our favorites of the year so far!

Top Ten Tuesday

10 Books I'm Reading This Summer (2018)

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

This year has been going by so fast! And I still have so many books to read. I'm very much a mood reader so it's hard to pick a fixed TBR but if all things go well, I am most likely to read the 10 books from this list.

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is: Top 10 Books I'm Reading This Summer (2018):

Love, Life and the List by Kasie West: Anything by Kasie West should be devoured in the summer. Her romances are so fluffy that make for such fantastic summer reading!

Dawn of Legends by Eleanor Herman: I think this is the conclusion to the Blood of Gods and Royals series. And I can't wait to find out what happens to all the characters. Herman has created such a fantastic world with a HUGE cast so I'm looking forward to tying up all the loose ends on everyone's story.

The Impossibility of Us by Katy Upperman (7/31/18): This one sounds like another great summer read about a girl who moves to a small town after her brother dies in the war. In the town, she meets an Afghan boy who she falls for. My heart is so full! Can't wait!

War Storm by Victoria Aveyard: The conclusion to the Red Queen series! I'm still seething over that ending in King's Cage but hopefully, everything is taken care of in the finale. I have high expectations on this one. Let's hope it delivers.

Chemistry Lessons by Meredith Goldstein: This one is actually out today! It sounds like a unique contemporary. Maya finds her late mother's old work notes about enhancing human attraction. After Maya's boyfriend dumps her, she decides to continue with her mother's work which creates some hiccups in her love life. Interesting!

The Fandom by Anna Day: This one sounds so good! The protagonist and a group of friends are at a comic convention when they suddenly find themselves transported into one of their favorite fandoms. After accidentally causing the death of the main character from the series, they work to finish the character's journey before the villains get them. This sounds like another unique one that I need to read soon!

Grace and Fury by Tracey Banghart (7/31/18): Looking at my tbr as a whole for the summer, it looks like I'm focusing on fantasy and contemporary. I did not do that on purpose but I wonder if that is what I usually read during the summer. Grace and Fury releases in July but I'm already excited to read it. The tagline alone got me interested: "In a world where women have no rights, sisters Serina and Nomi Tessaro face two very different fates: one in the palace, the other in prison." Guessing by the cover- based on their headbands, I'd say that the woman on the right is the one in prison (though I never knew they had that much makeup in prison 😃).

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan: I want to read this one before the movie releases in August. I've been hearing amazing things about this series so I hope it lives up to my expectations.

A Touch of Gold by Annie Sullivan (8/14/18): I have to wait for August for this one. Yet, everyone who loves retellings will need this one in their life. This is a retelling of King Midas! How cool is that!

My So-Called Bollywood Life by Nisha Sharma: I've been reading some reviews on this one and it sounds like such a fluffy read! Certainly, for cuteness alone, it needs to be read during the warmer months!

What books are you reading this summer?

book review

Gorgeous Imagery Meets Tragedy | Sweet Black Waves by Kristina Perez

Friday, June 08, 2018

Sweet Black Waves by Kristina Perez

Publisher: Macmillan
Publication Date: 6/5/18
Pages: 448
Source: Netgalley; thank you, Macmillan!

Two proud kingdoms stand on opposite shores, with only a bloody history between them. As best friend and lady-in-waiting to the princess, Branwen is guided by two principles: devotion to her homeland and hatred for the raiders who killed her parents. When she unknowingly saves the life of her enemy, he awakens her ancient healing magic and opens her heart. Branwen begins to dream of peace, but the princess she serves is not so easily convinced. Fighting for what's right, even as her powers grow beyond her control, will set Branwen against both her best friend and the only man she's ever loved. Inspired by the star-crossed tale of Tristan and Eseult, this is the story of the legend’s true heroine: Branwen. For fans of Graceling and The Mists of Avalon, this is the first book of a lush fantasy trilogy about warring countries, family secrets, and forbidden romance.
Inspired by the tragedy of Tristan and Isolde, Sweet Black Waves by Kristina Perez gives you a unique view into the romance we all thought we had known. Branwen, cousin and lady in waiting to Princess Essy, apprentices under her aunt, the Queen. When a man from the enemy’s land washes upon shore, Branwen struggles with herself to heal a dying man but also to heal a man whose colors are the same that killed her parents years before. What she did not expect, however, is to fall in love with the man, Tristan, who is keeping more secrets than she knows. In this gorgeously woven tale of romance, magic, and adventure, Sweet Black Waves is sure to sweep you off your feet.

favourite movies GIF


  • The story was completely unexpected. Most days, I usually go into books blind, not knowing anything about them. I went into Sweet Black Waves thinking it was a retelling of Tristan and Isolde from Isolde's lady in waiting's perspective. However, this gives the lady in waiting the spotlight and bumps the Isolde character to the sidelines. I enjoyed this take on the tale. Changing the position of the female character—from princess to lady in waiting—removes some conflicts of the original tale, leaving it open to Perez to spin the story differently. Even though I'm familiar with the original tale, Sweet Black Waves is still able to keep readers on their toes.
  • With most fantasy books, I always have trouble remembering characters’ names. Sweet Black Waves is no exception. As a guide for myself, I created a small character chart on who was who in the palace as the first part of the book seemed to introduce them so quickly. After a few chapters, the names and characters become much easier to differentiate.


  • The writing was absolutely superb. The imagery fully immerses readers into the story. The gorgeous oceanside setting captures the many fantastical elements riddled throughout the plot. The ship, the palace, and the cave—all the settings of the book—vividly take hold in readers’ minds. The writing was so poetic that I hope to read more from Perez in the future. 
  • There are some magical elements that added a high fantasy vibe to the story that I really enjoyed. It seemed to take the story to the next level. Through these elements, Perez gave us a look deeper into the character’s actions and was able to enhance the setting tenfold. Through it all, Sweet Black Waves was still able to encapsulate you in its fast pace. 
  • Essy, the princess, was unlikable. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t warm up to her. I found her a bit bratty and rude at times. However, I do entirely agree with her reactions to her current situation and do believe that Perez truly captured Essy’s age. Whereas, Branwen seems entirely the opposite. I adored Branwen; she was courageous, reserved and loyal. Next to Essy especially, she was an old soul which truly made the characters distinct from each other. The relationship the two had was remarkably done. Throughout the course of the novel, we got to see the ups and downs of their sisterly relationship.

charlize theron s GIF

Ending and What's to Come

  • Make sure to check out the author’s note in the back of the book as Perez discusses Tristan and Isolde, her inspiration of Sweet Black Waves.
  • The ending was predictable and not only if readers are familiar with the tale of Tristan and Isolde. Perez gives readers several instances where she screams the ending throughout the story. However, just because the ending was easy to foretell, it doesn’t make the book any less entertaining. If anything, the predictable-ness of the ending was a way to help you prepare to wait for the next installment. 
  • There will be a sequel as this is the first book in a trilogy. I can't wait to check in with all the characters and see how Branwen is doing in her journey. Perez left it off well but it’ll be interesting to see where she leads her characters next as they embark on a new chapter of life. 


Sweet Black Waves by Kristina Perez takes you on a beautiful journey with an inspiring and strong female lead. The magical elements, gorgeous imagery, and heartbreaking story makes for a great start to a series. Sweet Black Waves is a magnificent read that will leave you wanting more.